On Wednesday evening I participated in our online Editors and Assistant Editors Gathering. There were about 35 of us. It was an opportunity to discuss issues that affect editors and assistant editors, and to network.
One of the questions that often came up from students studying screen, and one that I regularly encounter, is: How do you get a job in the industry?
This is a question we are wrestling with at the Guild as we put our efforts into the Reform of Vocational Education, to provide both a clear pathway into work as well as to outline educational structures and content that will help to ensure learners are as prepared as they can be to work within the screen sector.
The Gathering also got me to look back at how I got into the screen sector, and I thought I would relate that pathway here.
I was living in Tokyo Japan working with an American and Canadian friend in their small agency as a writer and rewriter of copy for advertising and communications content. A good chunk of the work was taking the Japanese to English translations the Canadian and others were doing of corporate video scripts and brushing them up for re-narrating in English.
The American had gone to film school in California and had a mate who was working as an Editor at Entertainment Tonight, a daily entertainment show on CBS. My friend managed to convince his mate and his mate’s bosses they needed a stringer (contract) crew in Japan to do entertainment stories for the show. They agreed, so he went out and bought camera and sound gear, roped his Canadian partner, me and another friend in, and very quickly we were filing stories for them. It was fun work. In the early days it was occasionally covering well-known bands coming to Japan to play concerts before it spun into much broader entertainment content and more regular work.
Meanwhile I had been travelling back to NZ once a year for breaks. On one trip I met a young Kiwi student studying at Auckland University who was a good Japanese speaker. He told me that he had been getting work with a couple of Japanese line producers, one living in Auckland the other in Sydney. They were coordinating Japanese TV commercial crews coming down to NZ for shoots. This made me think that there was an opportunity to get into this work as my English-speaking Japanese girlfriend (now wife) worked regularly as an interpreter, and my sister was a travel agent. We set up a company and for a few years worked with Japanese crews, most often in Central Otago and Southland shooting commercials.
During this time we returned to NZ to live and continued running the company, but I decided that I wanted to make content rather than just help others to make it. I made up a list of production companies in Auckland (there weren’t many at that time) and started banging on doors. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do too much knocking before I was hired to work as a production assistant for television and film producer Robin Scholes. So began my climb up the ladder through various roles as a writer, director, producer and executive producer doing corporate, TV, travel, and news for companies, including a couple of my own, before I launched into narrative drama.
Everybody has their own path into the screen industry. Every once in a while from now on I’m going to ask someone to write about their own experience. I’m hoping it will at least be interesting if not helpful for readers, while the Guild works to make it less about who you know and more about what you know, and formalise how to get there to kickstart a career.